International Law

The international law pathway includes five major specializations aiming to guide students interested in pursuing a career devoted to the practice of international law. International law is a broad category that as such includes public and private law as well as legal questions involving state, non-state actors and international organizations or courts. In order to break down such a broad category the WCL faculty has created five pathways to help students specializing in a particular international law practice: 1) International Economic Law (including six additional specializations); 2) International Environmental Law; 3) International Human Rights; 4) International Criminal Law; and 5) International Organizations and Multinational Institutions.

International Economic Law

This general pathway in International Economic Law will include six sub pathways described below 1) International Business Law: Transactions, 2) International Business Law: Finance and Investments, 3) International Trade and Investment Law, 4) International Commercial Arbitration, 5) International Intellectual Property and 6) Law and International Economic Development.

International Environmental Law

International environmental law has come of age in the past three decades, riveting the public’s attention with news of ozone holes, climate change, and species extinctions. International environmental law addresses the range of human economic activities and aspirations to ensure an integrated approach to sustainable development that promotes economic development, protects the global environment, and promotes social equity. Now a mature and dynamic field, international environmental law’s importance cannot be underestimated for it involves, quite literally, the fate of future generations and that of the earth. Foundational courses in our curriculum create a strong basis for pursing international environmental law. In addition, students may choose to take one or more of the key elective courses that we offer, including short courses that are included in our Summer Session on Environmental Law. Courses vary in the Summer Session, but most year the Session includes environmental courses on international institutions, international finance, environmental compliance, biodiversity and climate change. Finally, students interested in international environmental law need to be well rounded lawyers that have been exposed to other disciplines, particularly international business, administrative law, energy law, human rights and international trade and investment. 

International Human Rights Law

This track is for those with an interest in international human rights law practice, most probably with a non-governmental organization, but, in some instances, with an international organization, a government, or a private law firm. The practice will most likely involve policy work and/or missions and fact-finding; there are precious few positions that support work solely in systemic or impact litigation. Within the U.S. government, the most relevant agencies might be State, Justice, Homeland Security, Labor and/or offices dealing with immigration and customs (USCIS and ICE). Human rights is an area of practice closely related to domestic and international public interest or poverty law practice, as well as domestic civil rights practice, and meaningful training can be gained within any of those subject-matter areas. Our curriculum includes a number of courses that focus on particularly disadvantaged groups, or on particular geographic areas, that may be of interest. Examples are included below. 

International Criminal Law

International criminal law (ICL) is a developing area of law. While its boundaries are loosely constructed and expanding, its modern history dates back to the post World War II period when two bodies of law converged: public international law, which historically sought to guide and constrain the behavior of states, and domestic criminal law, which focuses on individual criminal responsibility for breaches of domestic laws. Thus, while a broad definition of ICL may include transnational dimensions of domestic criminal law, ICL is often understood as a subset of public international law involving the use of criminal sanctions to enforce law that is primarily international. Specifically, ICL borrows from two key areas of public international law, namely international human rights and international humanitarian law. Thus, certain actions that violate human rights – such as slavery – also give rise to criminal responsibility at the international level. Similarly, certain actions that violate international humanitarian law – such as abuse of civilians or prisoners of war committed in the context of armed conflict – also give rise to criminal responsibility at the international level. While ICL is enforced in a number of international or internationally-supported tribunals, it is also increasingly enforced in domestic courts, usually through domestic penal statutes or codes incorporating international norms. In sum, the field is now characterized by a cross-fertilization of international and criminal law enforced at both the international and domestic levels.

International Organizations and Multinational Institutions

International Organizations are a core component of International Law and as such they have been mechanisms for the establishment of standards for international law and cooperation in our increasingly interdependent world. International Organizations are responsible for the creation of rules that govern globalization. In the twenty-first century such norm creation is a worldwide imperative since the scope of governance goes beyond state boundaries seeking to solve global problems, such as climate change and global resources management. The creation of global rules, the management of the established international norms and adjudication in cases of conflict beyond national borders have expanded areas of practice for lawyers. While new International Organizations have been established also States have to deal with them not only from their Foreign Affairs Ministries, but from almost every branch of their administration. Likewise, private sector associations and non-governmental organizations can raise issues and present their viewpoints before International Organizations through hearings or inspection panels. Finally, individuals are directly subject to international law, particularly in the field of human rights and they can bring their cases before International Organizations. In all these different scenarios lawyers have to assume new roles in advising and representing public and private actors as well as administering global sets of rules in different fields. To gain an appreciation of the Law of International Organizations, we recommend that you take several Foundational courses. Then, you may wish to choose one or more subfields in the different areas of international law offered by WCL There are thus different subsets of key electives that will vary according to your chosen areas of special interest. Experiential courses will be important to give you direct knowledge and skills for legal multilateral work. We also list related courses that will be relevant based on your areas of interest.